We’re Pumped!

Wouldn’t you know it? There are still people who believe pumpkins are not kosher! It’s time to get rid of this silly misconception and add tasty, vitamin-rich pumpkins to our menus.

Produce in season is always the most flavorful, and now is peak pumpkin season. Pumpkins contain many nutrients like lutein, magnesium and beta carotene. Studies have found pumpkins can promote regeneration of damaged pancreatic cells, resulting in increased insulin levels. According to the research, pumpkin extract may be a very good product for pre-diabetic people, as well as those who already have diabetes, possibly reducing or eliminating the need for insulin injections for some type-1 diabetics.

The seeds also offer many health benefits. They are a good source of protein, zinc, and other vitamins, and are even said to lower cholesterol. One gram of pumpkin seed protein contains as much tryptophan as a full glass of milk. Roasted pumpkin seeds are a popular healthy snack.

Pumpkin Caramel Muffins

Some pumpkin recipes call for canned pumpkin purée, but making it fresh at home is easy. Prepare some extra, and freeze it for other delicious recipes.

For the pumpkin purée:

1 small pumpkin (2-3 pound)

1/2 cup sugar

For the muffins:

Pumpkin purée (see above)

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups light brown sugar

1 cup oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 cup caramel chips

For the drizzle:

1 cup caramel chips

1/2 cup whipped topping, defrosted

Peel pumpkin and remove seeds. Cut into large chunks and place in medium saucepan. Cover with water and add sugar. Cook for 30 minutes, or until the pieces are easily pierced with a knife. Remove from heat and drain well. Allow pumpkin to cool slightly, and mash.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 12-cup muffin pan, or line with cupcake cups. In a small bowl, combine pumpkin, vanilla, eggs, oil and brown sugar. Sift in flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Combine wet and dry ingredients; beat until smooth. Add caramel chips. Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake 20–30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Remove and cool.

Place topping in a medium saucepan. Heat just until small bubbles appear at the edge of the pot. Add caramel chips. Turn off the heat. Stir until combined. Drizzle over muffins. Serve.

Pumpkin, Spinach Spaghetti

This filling side dish can be a whole dinner with the addition of sliced grilled chicken.

1 lb. spaghetti (regular or gluten-free works well)

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2–3 garlic cloves, crushed

2 cups cubed pumpkin

4–5 ounces spinach, fresh or frozen

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 lemon, zest and juice

Kosher salt and pepper, to taste

1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped

Coat cubed pumpkin in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and season with salt. Heat oven to 400°F, and bake pumpkin for about 40–50 minutes, until it turns soft and gets lightly caramelized.

Heat remaining oil in a large sauté pan, and add garlic. Cook garlic on low-medium heat, stirring frequently so it doesn’t burn. Add pepper flakes, and cook for another minute or two, stirring frequently.

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add kosher salt generously. Cook spaghetti for a minute less than you would normally do. Drain.

Mash half the pumpkin with a fork or potato masher (you can also use a food processor or blender for a smoother texture). Put both mashed and whole pumpkin chunks into the pan with pepper flakes and garlic. Add drained pasta to the pan. Add spinach to the pan, breaking up pieces if you are using frozen.

Toss together all ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice and some lemon zest.

Sprinkle with chopped pecans and serve immediately.